Denise McGaha

Décor - - Life In Color -

Fash­ion and in­te­rior de­sign cross paths ev­ery now and again, but the re­la­tion­ship is a nu­anced one that de­signer Denise McGaha un­der­stands well. Her ex­pe­ri­ence, work­ing first at Neiman Mar­cus and later as the prin­ci­pal of her own in­te­rior de­sign firm, has taught her that color is piv­otal to both types of de­sign. She dis­cusses the roots of her color in­spi­ra­tion, and how she em­bod­ies her clients’ per­son­al­i­ties in her de­signs.

Q: What’s your of-the-mo­ment pal­ette?

A: We’re us­ing whites that are not as bright; they’re creamier. And brown is com­ing back. We’re go­ing with what I call a “Mis­sis­sippi Mud” pal­ette—camel and leathers—and punching it up with mus­tards and greens. It al­lows us to re­ally ex­press earthy tones, and vi­brant col­ors feel less gar­ish.

Q: Do your fa­vorite in­te­rior de­sign pal­ettes trans­late to how you dress?

A: I’m wear­ing loafers, olive khakis, and a mus­tard yel­low top— and that’s re­ally where I am right now.

Q: How does that sen­si­bil­ity trans­late to your work with clients?

A: When work­ing with clients, I look at their hair and com­plex­ion, and how they dress them­selves. One of my clients is a bril­liant red­head with emer­ald green eyes, so we in­cor­po­rated corals and deep olive greens in our de­sign to com­ple­ment her tone and per­son­al­ity. I am al­ways think­ing about how my clients will look in their home, but I think there’s a psy­chol­ogy to color, be­cause you’re not just pleas­ing one per­son—usu­ally, you’re pleas­ing ev­ery­one in the fam­ily.

Q: How do you make a state­ment?

A: I’m a South­ern de­signer, so in my work, warmth, lay­ers, and en­ter­tain­ment are at the fore­front. I love wall­pa­per—prints with botan­i­cals, and every­thing and any­thing with an Asian or global flair. Blush against darker col­ors in flo­rals is bold, but can still look fem­i­nine and soft. For the past five years or so we’ve been see­ing a lot of boxy, modern ar­chi­tec­ture. I’m opt­ing for decor choices that warm things up, which in­cludes adding trim and el­e­ments that soften hard lines.

Q: You work with Cur­rey & Co. as a brand am­bas­sador. How do you see color trends re­flected in the light­ing world?

A: Light­ing fin­ishes have re­ally shifted from chrome and sil­ver to brass, nickel, and golds. Warm met­als are very in fash­ion.

“I want my clients to look pretty in the spa­ces they live in. The col­ors peo­ple look good in for cloth­ing are usu­ally what makes them look good in a room.” —DE­SIGNER DENISE McGAHA

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